Taking annual leave: know your rights

Jul 11, 2023.

Holidays are an important way to recover from daily working life. However, as an employee, you’re not always able to take annual leave when you want to. Or you might fall ill while on holiday. What can your boss demand in such situations and what is regulated by law? Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions.



Did you know that you have to take two weeks off at a time? The law requires you to be able to rest sufficiently from work. But not everything is so clear-cut when it comes to annual leave. Tolerance and understanding are often needed – from employers and employees alike.



Who decides when I can take my annual leave?

This is primarily determined by your employer. In doing so, however, the company must take employees’ wishes into account wherever possible. For example, if someone has school-aged children, they should be able to take their annual leave during the school holidays.


By contrast, if the company has company holidays, employees must take annual leave during this time. Leave entitlement should be discussed at least three months in advance so that both parties can plan properly. In practice, this usually happens at the beginning of the year. Taking annual leave is therefore a legal cornerstone, but it also requires tolerance on the part of everyone involved.



Can I or my company cancel leave that has already been granted?

If annual leave is agreed between the company and an employee, it may not be postponed or cancelled without good reason. However, your employer may request that you take your leave at a different time for urgent business reasons. The company may request that you return from your holiday in an emergency. All costs incurred as a result must be borne by the employer.



Can I carry over my annual leave entitlement into the next year?

The company may ask you to take all your leave in the current calendar year. If you want to carry over a few days into the next year, both sides must agree. There is no maximum number of days; that is a matter for negotiation. By the way, the limitation period for annual leave is five years. As the oldest leave entitlements are always used up first, leave is usually not time-barred.



I am not allowed to take any more leave after my resignation. Is that allowed? 

Normally, your employer must still allow you to take leave even after you have given your notice. If possible, your annual leave entitlement should not be paid out at the end of the employment relationship. However, it may be necessary to pay it out from an operational perspective – for example, if you work part-time on an irregular basis. The court has ruled that the remaining leave entitlement can be paid out in full in such cases. 



Can my boss force me to work on a public holiday?

If it is a public holiday that is equivalent to a Sunday, then the company needs permission to be allowed to work. Only 1 August counts at the national level – public holidays such as Ascension Day, Good Friday or New Year are treated as a Sunday by the individual cantons. Companies are only granted permission if they urgently need to work on such days. However, employers cannot force their employees to work on Sundays; they require their consent. This is usually stipulated in the employment contract.



What if I fall ill during my holiday?

Whether or not you are able to relax despite your condition is decisive here. If you are bedridden or have to go to the doctor several times, your days are so badly affected that you are unable to take a holiday. In this case, make sure to obtain a medical certificate. The days on which you were ill are then considered as not taken. It’s different for minor injuries or if you feel unwell for a short time. 


Fortuna Legal Protection Insurance – a subsidiary of Generali Switzerland – has been helping customers to access justice for 50 years. During this time, it has grown significantly and now applies the expertise and experience of over 100 employees in 31 branches of law.